Walking into the Neutral Zone on a sunny day is a shock to the system. The townie hangout is so dark that it took me a few moments to get my bearings. I almost handed my ID to an obnoxious group of guys playing Golden Tee near the entrance. I eventually managed to make my way to a stool at the bar, which was full of regulars. Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw an ordinary neighborhood sports bar. The walls are plastered with beer signs and Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Sox and Cubs decorations. It's the kind of place where retired cops rub elbows with twentysomething sports fanatics. With cheap daily drink specials and a notoriously good bar burger, it's easy to see why the bartender knows her patrons by name.
Nestled in a suburban strip mall, The Neutral Zone is a better bet than most of sports dive bars in the western 'burbs. It's got high vaulted ceilings, making it feel a little more spacey than most of its competitors. And it's got TVs galore with a few projection screens and individual units mounted at the wall-side tables. The bar also has multiple Golden Tee video games, as well as Big Buck Hunter and an Internet jukebox that pumps out music from bands like Metallica, Sublime and Led Zeppelin. A caged patio out front is home to the many puffers, who have been forced outside by the statewide smoking ban.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Jim Collins